Physiological Roles of Carnitine/Organic Cation Transporter OCTN1/SLC22A4 in Neural Cells.Biol Pharm Bull. 2017; 40(8):1146-1152.BP
Dysfunction in neurotransmission mediated by neurotransmitters causes various neurological disorders. Therefore, receptors and reuptake transporters of neurotransmitters have been focused on as a therapeutic target in neurological disorders. These membrane proteins have high affinity for a specific neurotransmitter and are highly expressed on synaptic membranes. In contrast, xenobiotic transporters have relatively lower affinity for neurotransmitters but widely recognize various organic cations and/or anions and are also expressed in brain neurons. However, it has been largely unknown why such xenobiotic transporters are expressed in neurons that play a key role in signal transduction. We have therefore attempted to clarify the physiological roles of one such xenobiotic organic cation transporter (OCT) in neural cells with the aim of obtaining new insight into the treatment of neurological disorders. Carnitine/organic cation transporter OCTN1/SLC22A4 is functionally expressed in neurons and neural stem cells. In particular, OCTN1 is expressed at much higher levels compared with other OCTs in neural stem cells and positively regulates their differentiation into neurons. OCTN1 accepts the naturally occurring food-derived antioxidant ergothioneine (ERGO) as a good in vivo substrate. Because ERGO is highly distributed into the brain after oral ingestion, OCTN1 may contribute to the alleviation of oxidative stress and promotion of neuronal differentiation via the uptake of ERGO in the brain, perhaps abating symptoms of neurological disorders. In this review, we introduce current topics on the physiological roles of OCTs with a focus on OCTN1 in neural cells and discuss its possible application to the treatment of neurological disorders.